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Toilet repairs need not drain your wallet

January 17, 2009

By PAT LOGAN

Creators Syndicate

Dear Pat: We have three toilets in our house. Each one seems to have a different problem. It costs a fortune to hire a plumber, so I want to try to fix them myself. What are the common toilet problems? - Tracy L.

Dear Tracy: Experienced plumbers are highly skilled and generally worth the fees they charge. Yet most homeowners can repair many common toilet problems themselves. Most of the toilet-repair parts and kits include detailed instructions. All you will need are some tools and some spare time.

It helps to understand how a toilet works before you attempt to diagnose problems. Toilets flush by a suction created when water from the tank flows down inside the base of the toilet. Only a small portion of the water used actually goes into the bowl. This water is used to wash down the sides of the bowl and fill it for the next flush.

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When someone pushes the flush handle, a flush jet at the bottom of the bowl fills the water passage so the suction is connected to the bowl. Simultaneously, water comes out of the many holes under the rim and flows down the sides of the bowl.

The most common problem is a toilet failing to flush well on the first try. Usually that makes it necessary to flush it twice, which wastes water and time. One possible cause is a partial clog in the drain line. Run a hand auger down through the drain in the bottom of the bowl to clear any clogs. It might be difficult to get the auger started, but it will eventually get in there.

If this fails to solve the problem, the flush jet could be clogged. If this happens, the toilet will seem to flush properly. But because the suction force is not getting connected to the bowl, wastes will not be sucked out.

The flush jet on most, but not all, toilets can be seen at the bottom of the bowl. Inspect it carefully and you may find is it closed or nearly closed from hard-water deposits. These can be scraped away to open the jet.

Pour some white vinegar in the empty bowl and let it stand until any remaining hard-water deposits are dissolved. Also pour some vinegar down the overflow tube inside the tank. This will dissolve deposits in the passages inside the toilet.

Another common problem is a noisy toilet, one that whistles just before the tank is totally full. This happens most often in older-model toilets with an old ball cock-valve design. As the valve is just beginning to shut off the water, it will whistle through the valve. Replace the valve with a newer design that quickly goes from full flow to totally off when the tank is full.

Self-flushing can be annoying at night and also wastes water. The most common cause of self-flushing is a leaky flapper valve in the bottom of the toilet tank. Water slowly leaks out down the back of the toilet.

Once the tank level drops enough, the ball cock valve opens to fill the tank again. Although it does not actually flush, it sounds as if it has. Install a new flapper valve to stop the leak. They are made of a rubbery material and easily slide off and on the overflow tube.

Copyright 2008 Creators Syndicate Inc.

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